Payara Project not yet approved
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Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat
Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat

— in final stage, says Minister Bharrat

MINISTER of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, has clarified that, contrary to reports, the Payara Development Project has not yet been approved but is rather in its final stage and should be completed before the end of September.

He told the Guyana Chronicle on Friday that ExxonMobil’s legal and technical teams are engaging experts from the Department of Energy (DE) and the Attorney General Chambers for the crafting of a legal agreement which outlines strict guidelines for the company’s offshore operations.

“I don’t know if any media is carrying it as approved. What I told the media is that it should be approved soon… it’s not approved as yet,” Minister Bharrat said. He added: “We had an overlapping issue so the Attorney General is helping with the drafting of that part of it… we’re hoping to reach the month-end deadline.”

A review of the project was previously conducted by the Bayphase Oil and Gas Consultants contracted by the DE under the previous administration, but the current government conducted a new review to ensure transparency and accountability. It is being spearheaded by a team of international experts, led by Canadian Queen’s Counsel, Alison Redford.

Minister Vickram told this publication that when the process is completed, the review will be made public so that a comparison can be done between the review conducted by the international experts and that of Bayphase.

The completion of the process within September should allow for ExxonMobil to meet its development timelines, inclusive of a Final Investment Decision (FID).

President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Alistair Routledge, has explained that a delay beyond September could lead to a multi-month delay – as much as nine to 12 months – due to the limited installation windows for offshore weather systems.

He acknowledged: “It’s very close to the deadline that we need to achieve in order to keep it on course so we don’t lose traction and have to restart the clock from the point of view of the contractors and installation windows, but I think there’s a will on all sides to make that happen…we’re working through the final details in order to reach alignment on the conditions of the licence for the developer. I would say we are getting close. We haven’t dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ but I think that both sides are working incredibly hard to reach that closure so that we can get there.”

Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, was initially seeking approval for the Payara Development Project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Field Development Plan ahead of 2020.

The project, located in the eastern half of the Stabroek Block, is expected to see the drilling of up to 45 development wells which could take up to five years, with drilling initially pegged to begin in 2020 and initial production by early 2023.

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